“What starts here changes the world” was the motto of my undergraduate college. No pressure, right? Well-meaning, I’m sure; it imbued a sense of responsibility to make something meaningful of our lives, to have an impact and leave a legacy. And, for better or worse, similar language has found its way into the Church.
Shaped by that motto, after college I attended seminary armed with dreams and plans. During my second year, I sat under a professor whose teaching shattered them. “Decrease your vision,” he said repeatedly, like a mantra over the course of the semester. At first, I found the advice off-putting. But soon it became clear what he meant. The world doesn’t need superstars on a global stage. It needs faithful parents, spouses, neighbors, friends and co-workers, believers who are willing to serve God even if they never rise above anonymity.
Christianity is not averse to influence or technology, but are our methods of use truly following in the footsteps Jesus?
We in the Church aren’t really comfortable with anonymity, though. Over the years, I’ve attended my fair share of “vision castings” and watched young pastors aspire to platforms of influence. Countless titles with biblical lessons on chasing personal dreams pepper bookshelves, and the rapid growth of social media hasn’t helped, discipling us to believe we must be seen if we’re to matter at all. Owning books, using social media and desiring to matter aren’t inherently sinister. Christianity is not averse to influence or technology, but are our methods of use truly following in the footsteps of Jesus?
In Scripture, we see Jesus make a habit of shirking crowds, at times urging the recipients of His miracles to keep silent about them. Jesus was preaching and healing both physical and spiritual maladies, so much so that His fame spread throughout the whole region of Galilee. If this happened today, out of nowhere, Jesus would become the lead story on the nightly news and receive calls for guest appearances along with a book deal and production rights for a television series documenting His fame.
But in Mark 1:35–39 something striking happens. One night an entire city gathered at Christ’s door in the hopes of experiencing healing themselves. Then what does Jesus do?
“Rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, He departed and went out to a desolate place, and there He prayed” (v. 35).
Even His disciples didn’t know where He had gone. The passage goes on to say when they found Him, they were confounded by His withdrawal, convinced He was blowing it. Rather than building status with the crowds, He was praying in solitude! In response, Jesus says simply:
“Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.”
This is our Savior and our model for godliness in life. Rather than indulge a craving for influence, He faithfully attended to His Father’s will. The disciples misunderstood the purposes of God, expecting platforms and prestige to right their circumstances. And many of us want the same today.
There are times when some are called to step into the spotlight, but more often God calls us to daily forms of faithfulness, to decrease our vision instead of increase it. These compose the roots of true change. There’s nothing wrong with making plans or having dreams, but we have to make sure they don’t overtake our attention and distract us from God’s daily purpose for our lives, namely, to make Jesus known.
If we really want to be world changers, perhaps we need to consider decreasing our vision to more fully pursue the glory of God—and simply walk in quiet faithfulness.